Third place — Persons of color essay contest: Donovan Henderson
The divine white elephant
FFRF awarded Donovan $2,500.
By Donovan Henderson
Religion. To many in the black community, this word invokes a divine feeling of hope and faith. To others, this word is simply a mask for the structured spiritual miseducation of our people.
Studies show eight out of 10 people of color identify as one of the many branches of Christianity. This staggering statistic shows that nearly all of the individuals of the colored community continue to be misguided by the trickery of our oppressors. We all know of the racial and social catastrophe that was slavery, but have you ever asked yourself who would we worship if we hadn’t been captured and traded?
Travel back in time to the start of slavery and you will notice the seeds of Christianity had not yet infected the lives of our ancestors as they worshipped their original African deities. However, while in the bondage of their tyrannical “masters,” our ancestors were taught and forced to adopt Christianity as their one true religion. Quite unfortunately, we as a people have not learned any better in the centuries since.
Enslaved people and colored people as a whole were never given anything to empower themselves, as this would ultimately lead to the demise of slavery. Introducing Christianity to colored people has done more harm than it will ever do good.
First, let’s address the divine white elephant in the room: Jesus. Christianity teaches our people — via our beloved religion — to love and praise and worship a savior who does not even look like us. This religion has subconsciously taught us to believe that white is right.
We can praise and worship Jesus every Sunday of our lives, yet we should accept that we are not like him and we will never be like him because we are imperfect sinners and he (White Jesus) is an all-holy and perfect being. This has contributed to a community-wide feeling of inferiority to our Caucasian counterparts. However, that’s OK, because Christianity also tells us that if we repent our sins and believe that Jesus is the one true savior, we just might make into heaven, where everything is perfect. All you have to do to get there is remain complacent during a lifetime of suffering and pain. What’s one lifetime to a possible eternal life, right?
Furthermore, Christianity leads us to believe that everything that’s unfavorable is either the work of the devil or not in “God’s plan.” This enters us into a cycle of excuses that discourages us from ever taking responsibility for a situation. This is why I refuse to become indoctrinated into this fallacious reality that is Christianity. I refuse to play my oppressors’ game. I refuse to forego taking responsibility for my actions in favor of believing that it was the fault of the red man with a pitchfork beneath me. Instead, I empower myself. Without the fallacies of Christianity guiding me into oblivion, I can truly make my life my own. I no longer am trapped in the slave mentality that grips the minds and souls of so many in the colored community.
Although slavery ended more than 150 years ago, its lingering embrace has plagued the black community religiously, mentally and spiritually for far too long. If we want to see an improvement in our societal standing, then we must make a collective and positive change. For religion to empower my people, it must start at the top. We as a community need to see our savior as someone whose image is not unlike our own. Religion must remove its emphasis on the afterlife and prompt the members of the community to better themselves while they are alive. I believe these are the changes needed to truly engage the colored community through religion. But not me. For I am free.
Donovan, 18, is from Hampton, Ga., and attends the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he plans to major in aerospace engineering. For years, he has been training and teaching martial arts. “I plan to use my education to empower myself and those around me, establish a career in entrepreneurship, and become a first-generation millionaire,” Donovan writes.